“The part can never be well unless the whole is well” –Plato
I have talked in previous posts about the importance being kind to our bodies by listening to it’s cues when we are pushing beyond our limits. But did you know that paying attention to the mind and soul is equally important? Understanding what healthy feels like requires tapping into a combination of these three facets that influence total well-being. The mind, body, and soul must work in harmony because when there is dysfunction with one part, other parts start to dysfunction as well. We must nurture our bodies through these actions: an appropriate amount movement and proper nutrition, establishing a sound mindset, participating in activities that set our creative souls on fire.
Mental health is a topic that a lot of people are afraid of talking about openly but it is something that must be addressed because the body cannot be well unless the mind is also well. We are all in this together and keeping it a secret is disadvantageous. Thought influences more than our emotions. It influences our current and future physical health, too.
Follow along as I share my experience on this 8-week journey and learn more about myself while participating in activities that nurture the mind, body, and soul.
Some topics you will learn about through my perspective:
- Pink Himalayan Salt Room Therapy and Meditation
- Body Meditation
- Biofeedback-Cardiac Coherence
“Most people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel”– Kevin Trudeau
I hurt my low back badly a couple of weeks ago. In the last couple of months, I had increased my training volume a lot. Before going to the megaformer class up to three times per week and Orangetheory one time per week, I was weight training three times per week and doing vinyasa yoga three times per week. This means that I doubled up on three days of the week (on my non weight-training days). I knew that I was exercising A LOT more than I was used to but I was eating more to fuel the additional exercise and I did not feel too sore or worn out so I thought I was doing everything right. I started having low back tightness a few weeks ago but it always felt better after any of the workouts. Two weeks ago during my weight-training session, I could feel that my low back felt a little tighter than normal while I was doing Romanian deadlifts and while picking up weights for another exercise. I felt great by the end of the workout. When I got home, I bent down to pick up the food processor from a low cabinet (which is very heavy and awkward) and when I stood up with it, I felt something pinch in the center of my low back. All I wanted to do was make pesto sauce! About a half hour later, I started having severe pain down both legs and could barely walk because of how painful and weak they felt. I have never felt this much pain in my whole life. I don’t remember what my pain was like after my back surgery 18 years ago but I’m sure it was pretty close to this. I felt defeated and I felt like all of the hard work I had put into making my body feel good would be quickly reversed. One of the daily practices that all of the trainers and chiropractors at the gym stress the importance of is breathing with the legs supported at 90 degrees. Zolie was keeping me company while I was doing this practice to relieve some of the tension right after I hurt myself. Isn’t it interesting how our pets know when something is wrong? He always makes me feel better even when I am in severe pain 🙂
Since reducing my weight training and overall exercise volume over the last couple of weeks, I have found peace with my lower intensity exercise routine. I have incorporated upper-body exercises and walking in my pool and am doing several rehabilitation exercises every day. These gentle forms of movement are peaceful and almost meditative because they are performed slowly and require concentration. Even though I am not sweating or working my body to exhaustion while performing these exercises, I am still able to find joy in moving my body in a way that makes it talk a little more quietly.
As the quote above indicates, a lot of people don’t realize that their body is designed to move well and feel good on both the inside and on the outside. Both people who have not adopted an exercise routine and healthy eating habits and those who exercise a lot and eat a nutritious diet have the privilege of experiencing what a healthy body feels like. There are downsides to extremes and our bodies may ultimately feel the best somewhere in the middle. My body doesn’t feel healthy right now but I know it will get back to normal soon because I am listening to its cues and giving it what it needs to heal including plenty of food and rest. I plan to reintroduce the classes slowly but take one or two rest days which I was not doing before the injury. And when I do go back to the classes, I will give 50% effort to avoid re-injury and to determine if those classes are ultimately beneficial for my mind and body. Even when we feel like we can take another class or complete another set of an exercise in the gym, it is important to rest and to pay closer attention to our body’s cues. A little low back tightness can eventually turn into something more extreme if it is ignored.
Throughout high school, I was never satisfied with my body. I envied my sisters who were thin and athletic and could share clothes
I hated exercise when I was younger. PE class in elementary and middle school was my least favorite class because I could not keep up with everyone and I felt like everyone was criticizing and taking advantage of that. I was always picked last to be on teams and wasn’t treated like everyone else. Fast forward to the summer after 5th grade when I needed a major surgery for severe scoliosis. I had a spinal fusion from T1-T12 (the whole thoracic spine) and was on bed rest for the rest of the summer and into the beginning of the fall school year. My doctor said that I would never be able to participate in contact sports and that I would need to be careful with other strenuous exercise. I had a personal trainer when I was in middle school but always hated going. I didn’t enjoy PE in high school either. I tried out for volleyball my freshman year but didn’t make the team. Throughout high school, I was never satisfied with my body. I envied my sisters who were thin and athletic and could share clothes. It wasn’t until the summer after I graduated high school that I started working out. I quickly noticed how my body was changing and how much energy I had. I eventually got a personal trainer, learned how to eat better to fuel my body, and saw my own transformation. This was my first aha! moment. Another big aha! moment came when I visited a health and fitness spa during my freshman year in college. I loved every aspect of fitness, wellness, and spirituality that this resort embodies and my life had been changed for the better. Throughout the following 10 years of returning to the spa every year, I developed a passion for movement and mindfulness that I am not sure I would have found if I never went to this resort. About 4 years ago, I decided to try a private yoga lesson at the resort. I was very cautious about yoga previously because of my back, but the care and joy that my instructor brought to my practice made me feel like I didn’t have to be as flexible or as daring as someone else and that it is okay to listen to my body. Over the next few years returning to the spa, I continued to work with the same instructor and she watched me grow in my practice.
When I returned to the spa back in March of this year, I decided that it was time to try something new since my instructor was not there. I had a private Zumba lesson and a private Pilates reformer lesson. Now more than I have in the past, I love every aspect of how different forms of movement make my body feel. Upon returning home from the spa, I felt a sense of emptiness that I did not have when I was there. I needed to complement my strength training sessions and yoga lessons with something else. I had been wanting to try Orangetheory since a studio recently opened close to my house and another class using a megaformer (I would describe this as a combination of barre and Pilates reformer but on a machine that is referred to as a reformer on steroids!). It’s not as scary as it sounds! Not only have a gained a sense of peace with my body, but I have found a balance and variety with my exercise regimen that makes me happy and brings me joy.
In the coming weeks (on Fridays!) look for glimpses into my workout routine 🙂
“Learning never ends and the journey is different for everyone. My journey had some detours and unexpected setbacks but I am still getting where I want to be–on my time”
Back to my journey of finding my passion and joy for health and fitness. While most of my peers finished college in the typical four years, my journey was a little longer and I am still on this journey. Do we really ever stop learning though? At first, I felt embarrassed and self-conscious that I hadn’t graduated at the same time as other people my age but what I realize now is that I am doing what is right for me. Not something that someone else thinks is right. Learning never ends and the journey is different for everyone. My journey had some detours and unexpected setbacks but I am still getting where I want to be–on my time.
During my first two years of college, I was a Secondary Education major. My goal was to teach English at my high school because I wanted so bad to be back there. Leaving high school was hard for me because it meant leaving a place that I finally grew comfortable in and leaving a few of the teachers who became mentors and who drove and still continue to drive my success. For my spring break freshman year, I asked my mom if we could go to Florida. We had been going to Naples for several years and I wanted to go back. My mom told me that she heard about a great spa in Arizona that she wanted to go to and that I would love because I always enjoy doing something. My mom reminded me that I always get really bored laying on the beach for hours on end. I decided that this spa trip could be fun so my mom, grandma, and I went on this trip. Little did I know that this trip would change my life. I learned to enjoy exercise and learned how to eat better. I have been going back every year for the last 11 years and the place captures my heart even more with every visit. After my second year in college, I began to question if I was meant to do something else since I wasn’t sure if I liked education. This was also the time that I injured my back working out so I took a year off of school to reconsider what I wanted to do. I was discussing my concerns with my mom when she mentioned that a friend completed her degree in Dietetics. I had never heard of dietetics but I immediately started reading everything about it that I could and I was sold! A major where I could learn about food and classes where I could cook?! This was exciting. This major was nothing short of challenging. I didn’t take chemistry in high school so the numerous science classes like organic chemistry, microbiology, and biochemistry were like studying a foreign language. I loved the field of health so much that I did everything I could to get through these courses. I got help from tutors and did the best I could. While I got B’s or C’s in all of these classes, I was proud of myself for sticking with it and not letting the challenge defeat me. After graduating with my degree in Dietetics, I did not pursue the Registered Dietitian credential but I knew that I wanted to continue learning about sports nutrition. Two years later, I stumbled upon a Master’s degree in Nutrition and Human Performance at a local university. I loved all of the classes I could take and was excited that I could specialize in sports and fitness nutrition. In January of 2016, I took the leap and started my Master’s degree. The past two and some years later I am humbled by where I am in my life and look forward to what exciting things are ahead.
“I cried the moment this happened because I finally realized that this is what healthy feels like”
My journey to finding optimal health was not a straightforward path or an easy adventure. Body confidence is not something that comes naturally for me and I will admit that I am still working on it. When I was in high school, I was overweight and envied my two sisters who were thin and were both cheerleaders. After I graduated high school, I knew I needed to do something about my health. I started using the elliptical machine at home every day over the summer and lost about ten pounds on my own. Then during my second year of college I started weight-training three times a week with a personal trainer and learned how to eat healthfully to fuel my body. Over the two years that I was training at this gym, I lost almost 40 pounds and kept it off until a back injury caused from training kept me from working out for almost a year. I put most of the weight back on during this setback.
I started rehabilitation training for my back at another gym where I learned more about eating healthfully. Over a couple of years, I lost almost 40 pounds. At one point I got too thin but did not realize that there was a problem. The nutritionist and a couple of coaches at the gym recognized that I was too skinny and that I was obsessing over what I was eating. I also lost my period for about nine months, wasn’t sleeping well, and had very little energy. They reduced my training load and told me straightforward that I needed to gain weight as fast as possible. Hearing this felt like the end of the world and it took some time to process but I was eventually on board. Eating a ton of food was difficult, but I eventually gained about 10 pounds and got my period back. I cried the moment this happened because I finally realized that this is what healthy feels like. Losing your period is no joke and should not be taken lightly. It might be a convenience but it is not healthy and can lead to serious health problems down the road such. I kept the weight on for a couple of years but then dropped to a low weight again about a year ago. I lost my period again for about six months and realized that this is not healthy and that I needed to do something about it. It took a second time of being in an unhealthy state for me to accept that being “skinny” comes with consequences. I am happy with a few extra pounds because my energy is better, I’m building muscle, and I have a better self-image. My body feels strong and healthy.